Centennial, Colorado — Sometimes you just have to dressed up and go to a prom.
On February 10, hundreds of thousands of people came together on one single night, all from different cities, different countries, different cultures, but with the same love, in a worldwide movement celebrating people with special needs.
According to a press release, Night to Shine is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. 175,000 volunteers from 537 churches and 33 different denominations across the United States and 16 countries on 6 continents, honored more than 90,000 guests with special needs simultaneously. Now in its fourth year, this unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs, ages 14 and older, has created more than a half a million nights to remember, impacting lives across the globe.
My wife and volunteered at a Night to Shine event in Colorado. As we made our way to the party, we encountered several stations that helped people feel special for the evening. Limousines were ready to take people for a spin around the block. Folks were ready to touch up make up, shine shoes (I took advantage of that), and sent people off to the prom in style. Next came the red carpet. Paparazzi lined the carpet and cheered as each participant was announced and walked into the dance hall.
The prom, held at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Centennial Colorado, hosted 138 participants and 243 volunteers for an evening of dinner and dancing.
“Night to Shine is an opportunity to lift people up in their faith in Jesus while celebrating through a dance and prom experience’,” says Susan Hart, the local coordinator. “The evening provides the platform to celebrate people of all abilities, people who may appear different and may have a disability. It also provides connections to people in ways that otherwise would never happen in real life.”
The evening is a beautiful opportunity to merge the Church and the World in a non threatening setting of a Prom and Dinner event. “We already see value in all people and conduct ourselves accordingly,” Hart said. “It provides us with the opportunity to lift up a group of people who are so marginalized in society and provide them with an event of great joy.”
My brother and his family also volunteered for the event in Linclon, Nebraska. My nephews were doorkeepers and my sister in-law took pictures of the pre-prom activities. The boys thought it was cool how many people came to it and didn’t really notice a lot of difference between the people who were coming as guests or as volunteers.
“We want to install a value in our boys that all people have value, are created special and for a purpose by God, that He loves them and so should we regardless of any ability, or physical or other trait we see,” says Torin Berge. “This experience allowed us to have those conversations and show that we believe it, not just say it.”
My wife and I ended up filling in as needed. We enjoyed watching people dancing and interacting with people. Kelly befriended a man named Arnold and his buddy, Julie. Kelly sensed that Julie was a little out of her comfort zone, so Kelly was able to teach Julie how to interact with her new friend. I didn’t see them for the rest of the evening, but like my nephews I hope Julie learned compassion and acceptance.
Near the end of the night, I stopped and chatted with mother and daughter, Jackie and Sindra. I asked them what Night to Shine means to them. “It means equality,” Jackie said. “For one night, there is total acceptance of my daughter. The playing field is even.”
“I’m just happy to be here and meet you,” Sindra said.